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Winemakers pop the cork amid funding injection for regional tourism and exports to China and US by Tom O'Callaghan 30/08/2017  

Regional agribusiness heads have welcomed a $50 package to help ramp up national wine exports to China and the US.

Minister for agriculture and water resources Barnaby Joyce said the package would help increase wine exports as high as $3.5 billion while attracting 40,000 international tourists to Australian wine regions by 2019-20.

Central Victorian Agribusiness Forum executive officer Martin Szakal said the funding announcement came at a good time for Victorian wine.

He said the Heathcote wine region was benefiting from international market attention at the moment.

“I know that some wine regions are looking at an international engagement strategy. There is support from the state government to do this, so it is definitely good timing to commit to this,” he said.

Mr Szakal said foreigners’ first contact with Australia was often through a glass of wine.

“This leads to interest in wine regions, visitation, exploration of investment opportunities and sometimes a commitment to invest,” he said.

Mr Szakal said that investment could help secure more jobs in the industry.

“Significantly also, there is the entire value-chain that benefits. Because wine is a value-added product, from grapes to wine to market, more jobs are created through sales, marketing and distribution. This is great for Bendigo and the greater region,” he said.

2016: Winemaker Peter Fyffe watches as Melbourne University's Dr Pangzhen Zhang hunts for a peppery flavour prized by Chinese connoisseurs. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Bendigo Winemakers Association president Wes Vine also supported the announcement, saying larger wineries would benefit. 

A number of local wineries already exported into China and the US. Mr Vine’s company Mandurang Valley Wines had been exporting to China for the past 10 years.

Mr Vine personally hoped the funding would be spent on fresh ideas. He said lessons could be learnt from past ideas including trade missions, which had not always been effective in China.

“In China there are a lot of interested parties but they might not always necessarily be the people who make the decisions,” he said.

Assistant minister for agriculture and water resources Anne Ruston said she was looking forward to the industry taking ownership of the package. 

As well as an eight-fold increase in investment and marketing campaigns to the US and China, the package included programs to help businesses capture export and tourism opportunities.

There would also be state-based competitive grants for wine-based tourism and a program to build knowledge of potential cider-export markets.

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